Nostalgia is an interesting phenomenon. Everyone has that one thing which immediately transports them back to a different time in their life. It can be a specific scent, a certain song, a particular movie or a unique place that will forever be associated with a distinct memory. But the problem with nostalgia is that it causes us to romanticise things; to fondly remember something through rose-tinted glasses so that you when you finally watch that beloved movie again, or re-listen to that song which meant so much to you as a teenager, all too often you realise that it doesn’t quite live up to expectations.
For me that one nostalgic place is the tiny Czech village of Český Krumlov. Of all the destinations I visited as a wide-eyed 18 year old backpacker (over 10 years ago), Český Krumlov was the standout.
Despite spending only spent two nights there in 2008, I immediately fell in love with the town, and couldn’t wait to show it off to Ashlea on this trip. We visited for only 1 night, but that still wasn’t enough, so following our two months in Africa, Ash and I agreed to spend a week in each of our favourite places in Europe. She chose Krakow, and I chose Český Krumlov. And unlike so many romanticised memories, Český Krumlov was every bit as magical as it was on my first visit.
Things to do in Český Krumlov
Český Krumlov is an idyllic, fairy-tale medieval town in Southern Czech Republic, which dates back to the 13th Century. Walking through it’s UNESCO Heritage cobblestone alleys is like walking back in time. Whenever you think of medieval Europe, fairy-tales or the fantasy genre, chances are you’re picturing something exactly like Český Krumlov.
From an imposing hilltop castle in the middle of town, to babbling brooks and wooden bridges, spiralling towers, narrow cobblestone streets, dark forests and underground taverns, there’s not a single fantasy or fairy-tale trope that is missing (I’m 99% sure I saw a wizard at one point).
The town fully embraces its medieval appeal, with regular costumed events and restaurants serving local traditional meals Henry VIII himself would be proud of. This throwback to the past culminates each year with the Five-Petaled Rose Festival during the summer solstice (late June). The festival is an authentic celebration of medieval Český Krumlov renaissance culture, complete with costumed parades, black-smithing and even jousting.
Český Krumlov Castle (and bears!)
If you happen to miss out on one of these re-enactment events, the grounds of majestic castle in the middle of town is open 365 days a year, where you can view the original stables, stroll through the picturesque gardens at the highest point of the town, and say hello to the bears in the castle moat (yeah, they have freaking moat bears). The castle dates back to 1240, and is actually the second largest in the Czech Republic (after Prague), surprising considering how relatively small the town is.
You should absolutely purchase a ticket for 100CZK to climb the beautiful Castle Tower, one of Český Krumlov’s most iconic features. The 52m tower provides an incredible 360° view of the town and surrounding area (provided you’re willing to climb the 162 steps).
The Tower is open from 9 am, and we recommend getting there early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
The Castle Gardens are free to access during daylight hours and makes for a great place to relax with a book or go for a garden stroll. The flowers and hedges are all perfectly manicured and there are several Baroque water fountains which really make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to a renaissance garden party.
Inside the Castle and Museum
In our opinion, it’s not worth paying to enter the castle itself, as most of the interior is filled with replicas rather than original decor, but you should definitely take the time to stroll the castle grounds for free. We also didn’t think the museum was worth it unless it’s your only castle in Europe.
Wander the Town
This is one of my favourite things to do in Český Krumlov, and chances are you’ll discover something new on each wandering! Follow the river, choose a cobble-stone alleyway to dart down, or simply pick a landmark and head towards it. The old town itself is fairly small, taking only 20 minutes or so to traverse. As the town does get filled with tourists during the day, I’d recommend wandering the streets either before 9am or after 7pm when you can genuinely appreciate the magic of the place.
Rafting in Český Krumlov
If fairy-tales, history and moat bears aren’t really your thing, don’t despair. Český Krumlov is a magical land where dreams are made, so there is something for everyone. If you’re feeling active, then hire a canoe or raft from Surf Sport and cruise down the Vltava River. As the river winds through the centre of town it’s a great way to view Český Krumlov from a whole new perspective.
Be warned though, despite the peaceful scenery it’s not all relaxation. The River contains seven weirs which must be carefully navigated; get the angle wrong and you might end up taking a dip in the cold water!
You can also stop off at many of the riverside pubs for some refreshments, so what should be an hour or so of boating can easily take an entire afternoon.
Best Bars and Restaurants of Český Krumlov
Chasing a drink after your river adventure? Český Krumlov has you covered! There are dozens of bars dotted across the town, many with gorgeous views of the river and townscape. If the weather’s nice (and you’re not too cold from any canoe capsizings) then check out the chilled lounge chairs of Na Fortune, right on the banks of the Vltava River. If you’re looking for something a bit more substantive, then head to Pivovar Eggenberg Brewery, Český Krumlov’s own local brewery, still housed in the original 16th Century building.
Our favourite breakfast location was a cute little cafe which goes by the simple name of Grill baguette Rustika Vlašský Dvůr. The eggs and coffee were the best we’d had in the Czech Republic, and the great music and awesome attitude of the owner made it a brilliant experience all-round.
For genuinely authentic Czech cuisine, try the Depo Pub at Hostinec Gasthaus. Many of the staff don’t speak English (which added to the experience), and the food was absolutely sublime. I’d recommend the rabbit and deep-fried cheese in bread crumbs. If the weather is nice head out to the terrace for lovely garden scenery.
The Best Views of Český Krumlov
Český Krumlov is a post-card picturesque town, so no doubt you’ll want to snap a few photos. Some of our favourite photo locations are;
A small park across the road from Hotel Ruze, Seminarni Zahrada offers a great view of the castle and castle tower. It’s probably where most of the postcard shots of Český Krumlov are taken. The best times to take photos are in the afternoon to avoid the glare of the sun behind the buildings.
Castle Garden Lookout
On the road up from the Castle to the gardens, there’s a small lookout on the left side which provides a fantastic view of the entire town as well as the winding Vltava River. It makes for a great selfie location!
The Castle Tower
One of the highest points in the town, if you do decide to make the climb up to the Castle Tower then you would be remiss to not take a few snaps of the sweeping view. Fair warning though, as you’ll be on the tower itself, the iconic symbol of Český Krumlov won’t feature in any of your pics!
Lookout on Objížďková Street
Located on the Eastern edge of town as you walk down from Cesky Krumlov’s AN bus station, this viewpoint offers an incredible introduction to the town… make sure to have your camera ready. If you don’t come this way don’t worry, it’s a short 5 min (500m) walk from the main square in the centre of town. Simply walk east towards the Coop grocery store on the edge of the old town, turn left when you get to the T intersection where Coop is (in the direction of AN bus station), and you’ll find the viewpoint about 70m down the road.
While you can get great photos from all the locations mentioned above, they can often become crowded with day-trippers. This last spot, on the other hand, is known only to locals!
Come sunset, there is no better place for a view than Krizak Hill, a 20 minute walk South-East of the city. It’s easily spotted by looking for the clearing amongst the trees with a small chapel on top. Bring a picnic blanket, some snacks and a bottle of wine and allow the beauty of this magical place to wash over you.
Český Krumlov – So Much More than a Day Trip
Sadly the magic and beauty of Český Krumlov has also become its undoing to a degree. Thousands of day-tripping tour groups invade the town between 9:30 am and around 7 pm, which does somewhat lessen the charm of the place. This is why it’s so important to stay in the town for more than just a day to see the real, quiet and peaceful Český Krumlov outside of these hours.
Some of my most special memories on the trip so far have been wandering the historic alleys at 6 am or 9 pm, when all the day-trippers have left, and hearing the movement of the river or being the only person within sight of the tower base.
Whilst Ash and I got an AirBnB for a week (being a bit over communal living after two months of it in Africa), I must give a shout out to one of the best hostels in the world, Krumlov House! There is nowhere friendlier, more welcoming or more chill than the staff and the guests here, honestly it was one of the reasons I initially fell in love with Český Krumlov on my first visit. They also produce this super cool map!
Český Krumlov is so much more than a tourist trap and so much more than a day trip. Do yourself a favour, spend two nights there. Hike the surrounding forests or raft the winding river during the day, and then at night, once all the tour groups have left you’ll have this magical town all to yourself.
How to Get to Český Krumlov
Now that we’ve convinced you to visit this magical, fairytale town in the Czech Republic, what is the best way to get there?
Prague to Český Krumlov
Situated only 170 km south, Český Krumlov is easiest to reach from Prague and takes 2.5 to 4 hours depending on your method of travel and traffic.
Prague to Český Krumlov by Bus
This is the easiest way to reach Český Krumlov! There are two bus stops, Český Krumlov Špičák (bus stop on the side of the road) and Český Krumlov AN (the bus station). Most buses stop at Špičák before ending at the AN bus station. As you can see from the map below these bus stops are close to either side of town, so check where your accommodation is located and get off at the closer one.
We recommend Flixbus for your Prague to Český Krumlov (or vice versa) trip as we found the buses to be more comfortable and the stops shorter than with Regiojet. Additionally, Flixbus runs from Prague’s Florenc AN Bus station, which is much closer to Prague Old Town, while Regiojet only runs from Na Knížecí.
However prices are comparable, so peak season if Flixbus is sold out RegioJet is still a good option for the journey.
The journey between Prague and Český Krumlov takes approx 3.5 hours, with departures from 5.30 am, and the trip costs about €6 or 155 Czech Koruna.
Prague to Český Krumlov by Train
We wouldn’t recommend this option unless you REALLY hate buses (even Dan – who notoriously hates buses – prefers the bus trip!). It takes 3.5 – 4 hours at a minimum, usually requires you to change trains in České Budějovice, and the Český Krumlov train station is pretty far from the old town, so with luggage, you’ll probably need a taxi to your accommodation.
The train costs €6.50 – 10.50 each way (165 – 270 Czech Koruna), depending on the train & how early you book tickets.
For up to date info on the train from Prague to Český Krumlov check the Man in Seat 61 website.
Drive from Prague to Český Krumlov
Driving between Prague and Český Krumlov is usually the fastest, taking around 2.5 hours. However, you’ll need to pay for parking at €2 an hour, and will struggle to find parking during peak season (and on weekends).
Plus you need to factor in car hire costs, with one-day rentals starting at €27 (695 Czech Koruna). If you’re planning to visit other places along the way this is a great way to see more of the Czech Republic, otherwise save yourself the hassle and take the bus!
If you decide to drive to Český Krumlov, we recommend trying to park at P1 or P2 (open google maps and search Cesky Krumlov P1 or P2 to find the locations).
Český Krumlov Day Trip from Prague
This our least favourite option, as we honestly believe you need longer (and get the best experience) visiting for at least one night (see our reasons above).
But if you really only have one day free, we’d recommend taking the 5.30 am and 7.10 pm return Flixbus, or join a Cesky Krumlov day trip from Prague to minimise your transport time. Here is a couple of good options:
Vienna to Český Krumlov by Bus
Flixbus has made it easy to travel from Vienna to Český Krumlov, with 1 daily departure at 3.55 pm taking just over 4 hours. While not feasible as a day trip, this is an excellent option as an overnight or few day stopover between Vienna and Prague.
Prices start at just €9!
Check the current Vienna to Český Krumlov bus prices and timetables for Flixbus here.
We hope this guide to visiting Cesky Krumlov has been inspiring and useful in planning your trip! Please share it with your friends and make sure to pin it!